Picture a large house with many rooms and long wooden halls and a grassy backyard that surrounds a large blue swimming pool.
Brilliant crystal chandeliers hang over lavish spreads of food in not one but two dining rooms.
The first dining room holds the foretastes-sweet fruits and rich meats that are irresistible in every way. But these fruits and meats spoil over time and must be constantly replenished
The second dining room holds the banquet of everlasting bliss. It’s overflowing with magical-looking fruits and exotic foods that cannot spoil. The delights of this room may be seen through the windows but not eaten until the master returns to throw open the door for his banquet, which promises to make all other banquets pale in comparison. This house is our world.
In this house there are two kinds of children. Some of the children have rejected the master’s invitation to the banquet of everlasting bliss, content to gorge themselves solely on the immediate pleasures of the foretastes. They are called the children of foretastes. The second group of children are those who have accepted the master’s invitation and eagerly await the banquet of bliss. They are called the children of bliss.
In the beginning, all the children tear around the house, laughing and playing with delight, splashing noisily in the pool and feasting on the lavish spreads of foretastes. But over time, the children of bliss begin to back away from the table of foretastes because they find no lasting satisfaction in them. Indeed, the fruits and meats easily spoil and sometimes make them sick. They argue with the rest of the children eager to set up rules for eating and playing. The master will return and satisfy them all with a far greater banquet, they cry.
But the children of foretastes loudly mock the children of bliss for ignoring such a lavish spread set before them now.
“Was not this the gift of the master?” they ask. “The master gave us these things to make us happy!”
Incensed by the wayward children’s shortsightedness and their ambitious play, the children of bliss begin to avoid the children of foretastes, bringing upon themselves even more mockery.
Soon the children of bliss begin to feel like the ugly stepchild, though in reality it was for them that the master built the house. They retreat to find sanctuary from the others. They stop eating at the table of foretastes and denounce the fruits that spoil and meats that rot. They find the company of the loud children offensive, and their withdrawal is as much from the children as from the fruits and meats that spoil.
Over time the children of bliss forget what the meats and fruits left by the master taste like. And, as a result, they lose any true anticipation for the greater meats and fruits in the adjoining dining room.
In many ways, Christians have become like the children of bliss in this analogy. While the children of our culture play noisily about the yard and swim in so many pleasures and eat from lavish spreads, we often feel like the ugly stepchild, confined to our closets, starved of the pleasures that call to us. We sneak out from time to time to nibble at the world’s tables of diminished delights, then hurry back to our corners as penance for our indiscretion. Our faith quickly feels meaningless in such a small cramped space, and we soon lose all hope for any notion of victorious life.
And no wonder. We have completely forgotten about the incredible display of fruits and meats set aside exclusively for us in the great dining room down the hall. Once, the sight of his majestic room alone was enough to make our mouths water and our bellies ache in anticipation.
But now we’ve rejected the foretastes of that banquet, and our hope for that great day has fallen asleep. We no longer can remember, much less see, the delights of that which awaits us.
The Christianity that was once our playground has somehow become a prison without hope.
The response of many teachers who see a church enamored by the pleasures of this world has been to drive their flock away from the pleasures of the world rather than toward the pleasures of heaven, which results in only a deeper kind of slumber, stripped of not only the pleasures of heaven but those of earth as well. This is a terrible condition that the world scoffs at, and for good reason.
I understand the reasoning behind denouncing pleasure on earth as a way to stop the hemorrhaging of sin, but doing so is contrary to God’s character. God’s gifts in this life are a foretaste of that which is to come. Rejecting those foretastes is tantamount to thumbing your nose at heaven. If a person is asleep to both the pleasures of this world and those of the next, it could be said he or she is in a coma.
Who could possibly be attracted to such a person? Not I, and not the lost. The lost would rather stay lost than be found in a coma.
This is no way to follow Christ. As God’s children we should enjoy his feast in delight, constantly reminded that this foretaste will soon be eclipsed by pleasures we can only imagine. And imagine them we must.
Ted Dekker The Slumber of Christianity. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2005, p. 164-166.